Welcome to Mexico!
By Victoria Schmidt
The wheelbarrow was red and lined with the scratches of use. The rope was long and worn. These were the toys of two small children who played outside of the farmacia one night as I sat inside the comfort of our van awaiting my husband’s return from his pharmaceutical chores.
The young girl was no more than seven years old, the boy about four or five. Both children were dressed in clothes that were well worn. Their play was infectious and impromptu. Their tools-turned-toys delighted the children. First she arranged the wheelbarrow in one spot. She thought it was level, then she tried to get inside the wheelbarrow and it started to tip. Instead of trying to get inside, she stood back and reasoned it out, and then rearranged the wheelbarrow. This process repeated three more times until she sat triumphantly in the wheelbarrow.
Meanwhile her brother was busy attempting to lasso the street signs. He’d gather the rope in a series of circles in his hand, and then circle the rope in the air above his head and tossed it toward the sign. After each miss, he’d try a slightly different approach: one handed, both hands or jumping. The one I enjoyed the most was the last minute jump…after he had tossed the rope. After a few tries, he looked at his sister, who was by now sitting securely and self-satisfied in the wheelbarrow. An idea was born. He tied the rope to the front wheel brace and the other end of the rope to his leg and attempted to pull the wheelbarrow. He pulled the rope taught and with all the might his small body could muster, he strained against that rope… to no avail.
His sister, rather than sitting firmly in the wheelbarrow, tried her hardest to will her weight away. She pulled herself up, but that didn’t work. She looked over one side, then the other side, and then she removed herself from the comfort of her wheelbarrow seat and instead, took the handles. She guided it, so that her brother thought he was pulling it and he squealed in delight.
Then, without conferring, another game began. She would advance, and he would retreat. And the game continued over the sidewalk, into the street, pausing for an occasional car, and resuming after the car had passed.
I marveled as I watched these two children. I was mesmerized by their play. And as I watched them with their simple “toys,” I though of other children I watched at play in the Northern United States. Did I remember such simplicity? Such joy? Could I remember a brother and sister playing together so harmoniously? Well, perhaps at times, but not often. What I remember are arguments over expensive toys. And girls and boys who didn’t want to be bothered with spending time with their siblings. I remember arguing–lots of arguing….and the whine, “Do we have to?” when a parent would intervene.
I wondered how the children outside the farmacia that night would interact with the children in America. Would the American children be as thrilled with an old red wheelbarrow and a length of old rope?